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 Berkeley Pledge Special:

Pioneering Academic Success in K-12 Schools

by Anita Madrid
posted June 16, 1998

After one year of implementation in local Bay Area school districts, the Berkeley Pledge announced marked progress in the mathematics achievement of K-12 students served in these schools.

As a result of these gains, the Pledge was hailed as a “national model” by U.S. Education Secretary Richard Riley in his “State of Education” address in February. The Berkeley Pledge model also has influenced the direction of the outreach efforts announced by the President’s Task Force for the University of California, and has begun to influence foundation and corporation funding guidelines for grants to schools and universities.

Chancellor Berdahl has announced his commitment to continue funding for the project for 1998-99 and to step up efforts to seek outside sustaining funds in the future.

“The success of the Berkeley Pledge in the past few years has provided great encouragement and we continue to support its excellent efforts,” said Berdahl. “Through its associated programs and the impressive dedication of its staff and volunteers, the Pledge has shown what we have always believed to be true – that when students of all backgrounds are given an opportunity to excel academically, they will.”

However, the recent drop in the number of underrepresented students in Berkeley’s freshman class of 1998 poses new challenges for the outreach and recruitment efforts of the Berkeley Pledge and raises many questions about how the campus can preserve diversity under the admission constraints of Proposition 209 and the Regents directive, SP 1.

Over the last two years, the Berkeley Pledge has expended extensive funding in recruitment and K-12 outreach programs to identify and develop students who would be eligible for UC and competitive for Berkeley. The recruitment efforts have resulted in increased applications from students, especially from Southern California.

Last year’s efforts to get admitted students to enroll at Cal paid off. Berkeley has steadily increased its scholarship fund and provided more employment opportunities for its undergraduates. Campus academic support programs have designed new programs to ensure the academic success of our freshmen in their first year.

With the implementation of Berkeley’s new admission policy, it is clear that the campus will have to step up recruitment efforts and revisit its admission policy if we are to overcome the effects of these new constraints on our ability to maintain student diversity. For the long term, the Pledge must also continue addressing the low UC eligibility rates of children in the schools and maintain the new partnerships with our school districts.

Working diligently in the schools, the Berkeley Pledge has demonstrated that children in impoverished neighborhood schools can achieve and excel if the schools have the appropriate resources. However, the Berkeley Pledge is a “model,” not a short-term solution for the university’s admissions crisis. As a model it must demonstrate, first, that it can work and then influence other California colleges and universities to adopt similar programs to their unique environments and with their school district partners.

This important work cannot be sustained indefinitely on temporary funding, nor should it. More important, these early accomplishments demonstrate that permanent educational equity in our schools will not be sustained without a marked change in California’s commitment to its educational system and a fundamental change in the economic and social policies that continue to impoverish some neighborhoods.

In the next two years the Pledge will make every effort to work with our schools to identify ways to accelerate student achievement in literacy, writing and science such as has been achieved in mathematics. The Berkeley Pledge will continue to influence the adoption of an outreach model that partners with K-12 schools to improve student learning, to influence school stakeholders to fund programs that demonstrate efficacy, and to influence the State of California to provide the resources and the support these schools need.

The campus has supported the Pledge with pride. Faculty and staff have contributed to the Pledge through the United Way Campaign and directly to campus. The graduating classes of 1996 and 1997 have both donated gifts totaling $30,000 to Pledge work. Faculty and staff are fashioning new outreach interventions in areas of need, and are helping design strong evaluations that will prove the efficacy of strategic outreach efforts. Our outreach programs are restructuring relationships with the schools and with each other under the auspices of the Pledge and the Berkeley Academy, the “umbrella” organization for student achievement programs.

Campus departments have donated computers to local schools and hundreds of Cal students are working in Pledge projects to help school children improve their academic achievement. Many other campus student groups are assisting us with statewide recruitment and joining faculty and staff in contacting admitted students. Berkeley is a wonderful, caring community and the Berkeley Pledge partners are very grateful to all of you for your many contributions and hope to continue counting on your support.

Here are a few “snapshots” of Berkeley Pledge work in the schools during the last year….

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